The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion(no. 20)
Praying Every Day (3): The Fruits of Prayer
The “results” of our praying, are largely hidden. Nevertheless, we can speak of the promises of God that attend the call to prayer, and we have the long history of God's people who bear witness to the fruits of prayer – now and then made strikingly visible.
Knowing God . . .
Knowing God is something more that knowing about God. It is more than knowing that there is a God, that he is omniscient, that he is the Creator, that he is merciful, etc. The Scriptures speak of a knowledge of God that is intimate, the sort of knowing that goes on between one person and another. In fact, in the Bible, “knowing” describes the most intimate of all human relationships: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived ...” (Gen. 4:1). It is this interpersonal knowledge that is the foundation and goal of prayer. It is a knowledge gained only by love; just so it is a knowledge of what the other desires, of what the other “feels”, of what the other requires.
In this “knowledge” of God we have to do with the mystery of the divine Love (Trinity): “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). This means that in Christian prayer (that is, prayer with Jesus and in his Name) we begin to share in the Son's knowing of his Father and in the Father's knowing of his Son. This knowledge of God is the first fruit of prayer.
Paying Attention . . .
“Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). The spiritual life is (for the time being) largely hidden. Even when the spiritual reality is momentarily made visible to the eye – chiefly in the sacraments, but also in the smallest act of kindness, our physical senses see only the outward sign of what is going on. The large part of the mystery is seen only by the “eyes of faith”. It is in sustained prayer that one receives the gift of sustained attention. In prayer, we step out of the visible world of “multi-tasking” in order to pay attention with Mary of Bethany to the “one thing that is needful” (Lk. 10:42). How many men and women of our age live their lives on the surface of reality, in what they insist on calling the “real world”, resisting the Spirit's intimate revelations of the Truth that can be received only by one who has an “ear to hear” ( Matt. 13:9-16)). Satan does not have to make a man a monster in order to win his soul. He only has to keep him from paying attention to the real “real world”. It is in prayer that we learn a holy realism. When the impulse to pray strikes, know that you are receiving a call from the real world.
Receiving What You Ask For . . .
The fruits of prayer are “whatever you ask for” (John 11:22: 16:13). So we are promised by Jesus. But we will need to look below the surface, to contemplate this promise, if we are to comprehend its meaning. That is to say, only in prayer can I learn to discern the real answer to my prayer. In prayer we receive the grace to “wait on the Lord” (Ps. 130) when it seems that God has fallen silent. In prayer we also receive the grace to get off our knees and to receive the new gift given, and to participate in the new reality created by God's unexpected answer to our prayers.
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